The Risk of a Personalized Web and the RSS Solution

This morning, I watched an excellent TED talk posted by the Inter-tech Education blog about how personalization of the web can block us from different ideas and sources of information. This type of thing is already happening on Facebook and Google, without us knowing about it. The presenter makes a call, to the big companies already doing this, for more transparency and control for users. I believe that what he calls the possible “web of one” is a bad thing that will separate us all rather than having the internet bring us together across the globe. I do not like the idea of personalization without my explicit input or authorization. One example of transparent personalization is the iPad reading app Zite, which allows readers to give a thumbs up or down to articles. Then the app tries to learn what types of articles you would like to read. This is no different, but the reader is a conscious participant. There are many other tools out there using this type of model.

I think another solution to this is RSS technology. With the death of Google Reader, we have had plenty of replacement services, Feedly being my choice. RSS gives you total control over what you subscribe to and what you read – no filters.

Do you think RSS fits in to this conversation? Do you see it as a viable solution for the masses? Do you care that Google and Facebook are personalizing your experience without telling you?

Watch the TED talk below. It is definitely worth your 8 minutes.


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